Smart Transport

Millions return to public transport across London

The latest figures from Transport for London (TfL) show that Tube ridership has increased by 25% and bus trips have increased by nearly 10% since early January.

New analysis of ridership data by TfL has revealed that, since working from home restrictions were lifted on 19 January 2022, the number of people using the Tube during weekdays has increased by at least 25%.

Ridership is now regularly around 60% of pre-pandemic levels during the week - up from around 45% in early January, with stations close to financial institutions such as Canary Wharf, Mansion House and Aldgate seeing ridership numbers between 8 and 9am already well on track to having double seen while working from home restrictions were in place.

Ridership on the Waterloo and City line is now just under 50% of pre-pandemic levels during peak hours, following a full weekday service resuming on 31 January.

At weekends, ridership on the Tube is now at around 75% of pre-pandemic levels and key tourist stations such as Leicester Square are already seeing ridership levels above 80% on Saturday.

The Night Tube is continuing to see increased ridership, with levels on the Victoria and Central line now at around 45% of those seen on those lines prior to the pandemic. Ridership on the Night Overground, which operates between Highbury & Islington and New Cross Gate on Friday and Saturday nights, is also now around 50 per cent of levels seen before the pandemic.

Bus ridership data

While bus ridership has consistently been more than 50% of pre-pandemic levels since April 2021, the recent lifting of restrictions has led to the overall number of journeys increasing by around eight per cent compared to early January.

In outer London boroughs, weekday bus ridership is now regularly at 75% of pre-pandemic levels, with ridership in Hillingdon and Barking seeing levels at around 80% - especially at weekends.

Some bus routes across London, such as the route 90, which goes between Northolt station and Feltham station via Hayes and Harlington, and the route EL2 which links the new Barking Riverside development to Barking town centre and Dagenham Dock station, are now seeing around 87% of normal levels of ridership - showing the importance of a regular, accessible bus network in outer London to supporting London and the UK's continued economic revival.

The recent increase further demonstrates that customers are increasingly confident in using public transport and are keen to return to the city and explore all it has to offer.

Seb Dance, Deputy Mayor for Transport, said: "London's transport network is crucial for a sustainable recovery, and it's fantastic to see passengers confidently using it as they return to workplaces and to enjoy all the city has to offer.

“The increased footfall is great news for London's businesses and hospitality venues which have been hit so hard by the pandemic.

“These figures also highlight how vital a comprehensive bus network is for London, not only for people getting around central London but also for those who don't live as near to other modes of transport - with some areas in outer London nearly at pre-pandemic levels once again.

“It's crucial that the Government agrees to long-term capital funding, so we are able to keep these services running, to aid both London's recovery and that of the wider country. Throwing that all away now would be a tragedy with far-reaching consequences for Londoners and the rest of the UK."

The Department for Transport (DfT) and TfL have been locked in extended negotiations to secure funding for the future. The deadlines to reach an agreement on funding have been extended multiple times, with the latest extension due to end on 25 February.

Ministers agreed a £1.08bn funding package to help TfL recover from the coronavirus pandemic in June. 

The bailout, which provided financial support for the hard-hit transport authority until December 11, followed two emergency support packages agreed in April and October 2020, and took Government support to TfL since March 2020 to more than £4bn. 

The pandemic has changed travel forever

Peter O’Driscoll, managing director at cashless parking company RingGo, said its own data points to deep-rooted behaviour changes caused by the trend for working from home.

O’Driscoll said: “It’s unsurprising that the return to work has caused travel to increase, but not by as much as one might suspect. Nationally, parking was up by under 1% when Plan B was lifted. 

“However, our data points to a more deep-rooted change in behaviour – most notably, that the public are more mobile during the weekends.”

Comparing 2020 to 2022, the percentage of parking transactions on Saturday and Sunday are each up by over 5% while Monday is down by the same amount.

With working from home now standard across the UK, consumers are travelling to cities on Saturday and Sunday to have a full day in town. 

He added: “As we keep an eye on road travel, making sustainability pledges reality is the vital next step for Councils and local authorities.

“Deriving value from data will prove key – outlining pollution hotspots, popular traffic routes, travel spikes and parking trends will help shape tactics on the ground.

“The marketplace for data is growing, alongside the scope for harvesting valuable data-driven insights, and fluctuations in transport trends will inform local authorities about what residents are doing, how to best accommodate new changes, and how to support local businesses to keep the high street healthy.”

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